GoPro Mountain Games: Measure of Progress

 The gang at the start!

The gang at the start!

I want to start off this post with a beautifully articulated quote by the sorely missed Anthony Bourdain “Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom…is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”

Anthony perfectly conveys how the end of this weekend at the GoPro Mountain Games left me feeling. With a realization of how far I have yet to go but also a useful tool to measure where I am currently both physically and mentally. I experienced a calmness, a surrendering to whatever outcome, as I waited at the downriver race start line. Years past I would pace around the grounds, fighting the urge to throw up, trying to force food down. I didn’t feel that once…I looked at this race as an opportunity to gauge my personal fitness and to get to know my body better. 

It has been a long time since I have felt strong. For two to maybe three years I was suffering from compartment syndrome in my forearms. I had surgery two Winters ago and last years race was five months post surgery…I was still very weak (I think I finished 12th and I was too sick to compete in the SUP Cross the following day). But this is the strongest I had felt in years!

 Photo: Rick Lore courtesy of the Vail Valley Foundation

Photo: Rick Lore courtesy of the Vail Valley Foundation

For the first time Women were scheduled to start before the men and I was the first one up. As I listened to the count down, one foot in the river, one foot on my board, I only felt excitement for the feeling of piercing the water with my blade and pushing my body as hard as I could. And I did just that, there were moments I thought my shoulders and wrists were going to explode…but I stuck with my mantra and kept paddling. For half of the course I had a little humming bird leading the way (of whom I talked to almost the whole time), this surprisingly helped a lot! My run was clean and I didn’t feel wrecked like I normally do after the race…which means I probably could have gone harder if my shoulders and wrists would have allowed it. I was excited to see the results but had no expectations.

Our finish times still unknown, myself, Yuka Sato, Jessica Cichra, Guillermo Loria, and Nadia almuti got dressed for the mud run in whatever random costumesque attire we could find….and well, the pictures speak for themselves…

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 Photo: Rick Lore

Photo: Rick Lore

 Photo Rick Lore

Photo Rick Lore

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Covered in mud and freezing we found out the results to the race. Yuka in first, me in second, and Ashley Bean in third. I was ecstatic, you would have thought I won! Yuka, visiting from Japan, is second in the world right now in the ocean racing scene, she beat me by a whole minute. I was so happy she won! 

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Riding the high of my results for the downriver race I went into the SUP Cross feeling confident but not as calm. SUP Cross can be much more intimidating, the number of female participants is a testament to that. We went from 20 racers in the downriver sprint to a total of 8 female racers for the SUP Cross (there were 53 male SUP Cross competitors). SUP Cross is like slalom kayaking but in heats of three or four and is great for spectators which adds to the intimidation factor. It’s also a low-water year so the risk of hitting rocks was much higher (see video below to gain a better understanding of SUP Cross). Normally this is my favorite event, it’s exciting, showcases a paddlers skill very well, and sometimes it ends up being 50% luck…it can be a total crap shoot. 

The GoPro Games SUP cross sometimes has a different vibe than other cross events. It can be much more cut throat and often times we have issues with gate disputes. For the first time I was one of the disputers. I was told I missed a gate I know I didn’t and several spectators testified to that. So I spent 20-30 minutes running up and down the course trying to find someone with video proof. Once I did I couldn’t find the organizer to show it to. I was being told several different things, I was in and then I was out and then I was in again and then I was out. It was emotionally draining, highs and lows being thrown at me from minute to minute. It was sooooo incredibly hectic, I ended up breaking down and crying. 

 Photo: Kathy Summers

Photo: Kathy Summers

You try to tell yourself over and over that it doesn’t matter, it’s just SUP Cross, but when you give something your all it really doesn’t matter what it is. I ended up still advancing to the finals despite all of this. Tears running down my cheeks, I dipped my face into the river, and waited for the whistle. I ended up getting second behind the very strong Sage Donnelly and Yuka came up behind but not without a really solid fight. 

Afterwards, Yuka and I both collapsed into each other and cried and cried and cried. Competing at such an intense level alongside your peers and people you love can be so emotionally abrasive. When it’s all over you need a release, a purging of those emotions, and crying in that moment felt like the only way.  

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I generally don’t like or care about race re-caps but this weekend was different than all the rest and I got exactly what I needed out of it. During the downriver sprint I could feel all my hard work and self discipline paying off. My mental training with meditation allowed me to keep a calm and clear mind. But during SUP Cross, a much higher stress event, I lost control of my thoughts and mindset…lost in the downward spiral of negativity and unable to shift out of it. And that is okay. We must be kind to ourselves when we trip up and we must look for the lesson….there is always a lesson.  The GoPro games was a great reminder of how far I have yet to go, as well as a wonderful reminder of how far I have come.